First, let me say that I have been and still am a supporter of the Affordable Care Act. Since day one – October 1 – I have been trying to sign up for insurance. Thanks to the website glitches, I turned to the call center finally to fill out my application. It is also because of that call that I ended up with two applications, which caused a problem with my PDF file, which was sent to me shortly after I signed up.
I only make around $20,000 a year and so I knew that I qualified for a federal subsidy. Unfortunately, because I live in Oklahoma, I was forced to deal with the healthcare.gov site and all the problems it has been.
After failing to enroll after the first few weeks, I got on the phone with the call center to see if I could not iron out the problems and enroll. I really wanted to be enrolled by the beginning of the year, as I have several health issues that I have had just to ignore, thanks to my low-income and not being able to afford health care under the old health care system.
The PDF file that was sent to me from healthcare.gov did not show any subsidy at all, and though I was finally able to get into the market place, the rates I was being quoted were excessively high for me. The lower end – a bronze plan – would cost me around $245 per month and well over $6,000 in out-of-pocket cost. On a $20,000 income, before taxes, I could not afford such rates and I could not understand why I was not given a federal subsidy quote on my PDF.
The call center told me, after dealing with several people on the site, that my application had been duplicated, which caused the problem and it had been escalated to a higher up tech team. I was then told to expect a call from them within a week.
I waited two weeks instead and then tried logging onto my account on healthcare.gov and even though I knew I had the right username and password, I could not log in, it would simply return to the log in page. I again called the call center and this is when I ran into a brick wall and misinformation. The young woman who first talked to me did what they all do, apologize excessively for the inconvenience and supposedly looked at my application. Then she told me that I qualified to sign up through the market place. I told her I could not log on to the website and then she gave me another apology. I asked her how much I qualified for with the subsidy and she told me that she did not believe I qualified for a subsidy, as it was not in my application.
I told her that I did not understand why. She then said to me, “What makes you think you qualify for a subsidy?” I told her that I only made around $20,000 a year and I could not afford even the lowest plan quoted to me in the market place. Finally, after haggling with her for a while, trying to get help with logging into the website, she put me on hold, in which I sat there and sat there for a long time before finally giving up.
I was discouraged at that point, because I could not log in to my account and I could not get help from the call center. Finally, later that night, after not being able to sleep just thinking about the cost of my health care and wondering how I was going to afford even the bronze plan for $245 per month and $6,000 in out-of-pocket cost, I decided to try logging in again. Again, with no luck, so I called the call center and asked for a supervisor. After waiting a long time, I was given a supervisor and I explained to her my problem.
She then told me the same as the first lady; perhaps I did not qualify for a subsidy. I told her, I must because my income is so low. She told me, “I don’t know sir, maybe you don’t.” I was incredulous, what does she mean, that I must pay the full price for insurance or be penalized? I told her that for me to afford that kind of cost I would have to move into my car and stop eating. She told me, “You have the right to appeal if you want”. I was really upset then. Here I was, unable to log into my account and these people could not help me with that, just give me a bunch of apologies that would not and could not pay my bills. I hung up the phone and almost cried because, here I was, a huge supporter of ObamaCare and had blogged several times in favor of it and these people treated me as if I was just a number to deal with and give the same old response to, which was “We’re sorry for your inconvenience.” “You’re welcome to file an appeal.” I was almost tempted to give up completely, thanks to their callous response to my call, desperately wanting to be enrolled and blocked because of a faulty PDF file.
I gave the website one more chance and tried changing my password, which I had tried earlier and failed. This time I managed to change it and logged in. I was so surprised that I saw a new clickable tab that would allow me to “remove” my application and start over. I removed the old application and started a new one. After finishing, it sent me a new PDF file, which showed that I was qualified for a $279 monthly subsidy. I went into the market place and found that my lowest rate had gone to 1 cent for a bronze and a silver plan for an affordable $89 monthly premium. I was ecstatic and overjoyed, finally I could have affordable health care, no thanks to those people on the call center who led me to believe I simply did not qualify and I would have to pay full price.
Now, this is not an isolated incident. A friend at my work, who happens to be a diabetic and who lost her health care insurance because of the Affordable Care Act, really needed to sign up, but she ran into the same problem and the rates she was quoted was way beyond her budget. She called the call center and someone told her that she just did not qualify for the subsidy. After she got off the phone, she was in tears because she cannot afford the medication she so desperately needs.
I told her about my own experience and even though I have not yet heard back from her, I know she was given the same run-around as I. Maybe this is a problem specifically with applications from Oklahoma, I am not sure. I do believe that I was treated wrongly by the call center, whose staff is supposed to be there to help people sign up. They are not just there to hand out apologies and tell people that maybe they just do not qualify, in order to get them off the phone. I realize that maybe they are overworked but that is no excuse to discourage callers in believing that the glitch they may have experienced means they do not qualify for a federal subsidy to pay for their insurance.
I am wondering if this is a wider spread problem and because of the response some may be getting from the call center, they are becoming discouraged about signing up, and that would be a real shame because what I now know, it is well worth it and affordable.